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(41:26, ‘Mars Hill’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Job's Lament 10:05 2. Bildad 4:48 3. Zophar 2:46 4. Eliphaz 4:25 5. Job's Complaint 3:57 6. Job's Plea 4:30 7. God Speaks 5:51 8. Restoration 5:04 LINEUP: Tony Massaro – guitar; vocals Vincent Massaro – drums Dominic Massaro – bass
Prolusion. The US band TORMAN MAXT has been around since the mid-90's, and for the last decade or so with a firm and singular line-up, The Massaro brothers. The band has four albums to its name so far, and the last three of them made as a purebred family trio. "The Problem of Pain Part 2" is their most recent production, the second and concluding part of a conceptual cycle based on a book by noted Christian author Clive Stapledon Lewis.
Analysis. Torman Maxt is a band that, due to a few but important singular features, will have a limited appeal. Opting for a Christian concept album is a move that will limit their fan base quite a bit, and dealing with the thoughts outlined in a book written decades ago by an author of that faith even more so. How well those musings will resonate in the world that has moved forward quite a bit both in the general view of the world and in how most Christians see it is a matter I guess can be discussed at length. The second are the lead vocals. Tony Massaro is a fine vocalist, but one blessed or cursed (depending on point of view) with a high-pitched voice, reminding one quite a lot of a young Geddy Lee, but nowhere near as powerful. Thin is probably the best term to describe it. And while I rather enjoy how he utilizes the task within his natural boundaries, it is a detail that will divide potential listeners into a like and a loathe faction. Musically, Torman Maxt shares many similarities with the Canadian trio Rush: in the vocals as mentioned, but also instrumentally. They utilize melodic, harder-edged riff patterns extensively, in a manner that invites comparisons with the superstar Canadian proggers. Associations with Led Zeppelin also appear on occasion, and some themes also seem to take inspiration from good old Black Sabbath. In a dampened variety, I might add, but the manner in which certain riff patterns have been crafted and how the bass guitar underscores does possess similarities. But this trio has a few details going for them that make them much more than a band first and foremost inspired by others. They are fond of utilizing lighter-toned, wandering undistorted guitars for starters, pairing these passages off with the harder-edged ones. And then there's guitar soloing. Either subservient and hovering at the very back of the arrangements or dominant and brought to the front for the instrumental parts, a wandering, free-flowing guitar solo is as good as ever-present, frequently ethereal in expression, often with a psychedelic-oriented sound (almost like the sound of angels if you like, which might or might not be a planned effect for that detail), supplemented on occasion with, what to my ears, would appear to be slide guitar soloing. The dominant guitar soloing pulled to the front for the instrumental parts is more of the straightforward variety, melodic and harmonic, but when having a supporting role there's plenty of ear candy and details to enjoy if you listen closely. It's also a feature that to some extent will divide listeners into those who enjoy this detail and those who detest it, I imagine, but personally I found it inspiring. A slight distraction for me throughout was the compositional structure, which does merit a description. When changing over from one theme to the next, the band has opted for the use of slightly elongated pauses to mark the transition. I presume this has been done for a reason, but for me this approach became ever so slightly annoying.
Conclusion. Light-toned and positive-sounding harder-edged progressive rock is what's served by Torman Maxt on "The Problem of Pain Part 2", where high-pitched vocals, ethereal guitar soloing and Christian concept lyrics are parts of the package. Well-made and well-produced, but with singular features of this kind presumably an album that will have a limited appeal. If you enjoy 70's Rush and don't mind the Christian conceptual theme you might want to check this one out however, and I suspect some fans of bands like King's X might also find this one to be intriguing.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 21, 2011
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